Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I did my 'pollution pedal' on my bike commute to the Environment Hamilton office this am.  The ride takes me along Burlington Street and I eventually cut through the Keith Neighbourhood to get in to the downtown core.  I pass right by the old Studebaker Factory - a huge brownfield site which is currently being redeveloped by UrbanCore so that smaller, light industries can move in. It's a great project which has involved extensive effort by the developer to reclaim and reuse as much material as possible.  I learned from Sergio Manchia, whose company is redeveloping the site, that efforts have included salvaging wood beams from the buildings on the site, and reclaiming the steel and bricks.  The efforts to reclaim and reuse are impressive - a model that all redevelopers should be following.

There has also been a great deal of activity on the site breaking concrete floors and foundations down to gravel / aggregate form right on site.  I've watched over weeks now as jackhammers, backhoes and crushers have worked on site.  On most of the days that I've cycled past the area, the dust has been kept to a minimum, likely as a result of water sprays on the crusher.   But today was different, with large plumes of fine dust billowing up and blowing to the east - right into the residential area on Emerald near Mars Avenue.

I imagine these particulate plumes have to be creating problems for people living in the Keith Neighbourhood.  The stuff is fine enough that it's likely getting into houses and is definitely coating cars, lawn furniture and any kids toys that are outside.  So I decided I didn't want to leave the area until I talked to someone at the work site.  I cycled down Victoria - till I found an entrance.  Little sidebar - chatted with a man there to buy some old bricks for his home - another great example of reuse of materials from the site.  I ended up speaking with a man named Aidan - explaining to him that I was concerned about all of the particulate being generated at the site today, especially when I hadn't seen such an extreme problem there before.  He explained that the particulate being generated right now is so fine, it keeps plugging the nozzles of the water sprayers.  That comment gave me the opportunity to explain that it is the fine particulate that has the greatest potential to impact on people's health.  I noted that the site is right beside a large residential area and directly north of a medical centre.  He said that he would deal with my concern.  I left just as the equipment was all shut down.

I returned again on my lunch break - curious to see whether the problem was, indeed, resolved.  The picture below confirms it - the work continued but the dust clouds were gone!  It confirmed for me yet again that we can all play a role in ensuring problems like this don't occur - especially when there is really no excuse for allowing them to happen in the first place!

Environment Hamilton has been working to raise awareness and generate action to reduce particulate pollution in Hamilton.   We believe there are many forms of particulate pollution that constitute 'low hanging fruit'.  These problems shouldn't be occurring and the solutions are usually pretty straightforward to implement.  Click here to learn more about what you can do as a concerned community member!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The saga continues - more problems with scrapyard metal cutting emissions!

Hamilton has a growing number of active scrapyards.  Environment Hamilton continues to track activities at Hamilton scrap yards because many of them want to or are already using oxypropane metal cutting torches to cut up large pieces of metal.  The problem is this - these torches generate significant air emissions if not properly controlled. And, in our experience, there has been a chronic problem in this community (we're talking for many years now) with yards that have failed to properly control these cutters.  Emissions generated from cutting include high levels of fine particulate matter (small enough that we inhale it but our lungs have a hard time getting it back out), heavy metals, and various other chemicals.  Quite frankly, we at Environment Hamilton have come to conclude that effectively controlling these cutters in an open scrapyard setting is not a viable option. We are pushing for the provincial Ministry of the Environment to require those yards that opt to use these cutters, to use them in indoor facilities with proper pollution control.

This past holiday weekend provided more support for our point of view.  Triple M Metals has a scrap yard located at the very end of Parkdale Avenue North and on the south edge of the Windermere Basin.   The company has an air permit from the Ministry of the Environment that includes approval for the use of oxypropane cutting torches.  That permit required the company to develop and implement a 'best management practices' protocol to ensure that the air emissions from the cutting torches was minimized.   Well, so much for best management practices......   Yesterday (Holiday Monday), I came across this scene as I cycled through Windermere Basin Park in the east end of the city:

We've lodged a formal complaint with the Hamilton District Office of the Ministry of the Environment.   Clearly, Triple M is not following best practices.  This situation continued on yesterday like this for the 45+ minutes that I was down in the area.   We can't tolerate this sort of behaviour in Hamilton!

Meanwhile, the Ministry of the Environment has explained to us that they have required other yards (including Sunrise Metals - a yard we've reported on already because of their serious cutting emissions) to use a best management practices protocol already in use by another local scrapyard.  While the MOE won't confirm this, we know that it's Triple M's protocol they're requiring the other yards to follow.  We've asked for a copy of the protocol the MOE is making other yards use, but have been told that the protocol is 'proprietary information'. Hmmm..... we've pointed out that, because MOE is using the protocol for regulatory purposes, the public should be able to obtain and review it.  It looks as though we'll need to submit a Freedom of Information request to get a copy - but after what we saw this past weekend, we want to know that much more what the best management practices protocol actually requires.  Either it's being blatantly ignored by players like Triple M, or it's far from being a 'best management practices' protocol!

REMEMBER - If you ever see emissions like this coming from a local scrapyard, take the time to report what you see to the provincial Ministry of the Environment.  During regular office hours, call them at (905) 521-7650 or after hours at 1-800-268-6060.  Ideally, you'll need to be prepared to provide the name/address of the facility.  Taking a photo is always a great idea too!  And feel free to contact us here at EH if you see these problems.  We can help with documenting and reporting!